Holy Friendship

Holy Friendship

October 5, 2014  |  Pentecost, Sunday Letter

Grace and peace to you

If we are going to grow in faithfulness in the ways of Jesus – in other words in the ways of truth, gentleness, generosity, forgiveness, justice, purity of heart, humility, mercy and love, we will need help. We will need friends on the journey who will challenge and comfort and convict us at the appropriate times.

Below is an article written by Gregory Jones, the past Dean of Duke Divinity School, on this. He calls it, Holy Friendship. For the full article you can find it at www.faithandleadership.com by clicking on this link: Holy Friendship.

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“Holy friends challenge the sins we have come to love, affirm the gifts we are afraid to claim and help us dream dreams we otherwise would not dream.

It is nice to have friends and acquaintances who challenge sins we already hate; … but it doesn’t make a difference. What we really need are people around us who know us well enough to challenge the sins we have come to love. This is especially important because we often describe those sins we love in ways that make them sound understandable, even virtuous.

We need people who can help challenge the sins we have come to love, but if that is all they do, we most likely won’t enjoy having them around. Who needs a killjoy?

Holy friends also affirm the gifts we are afraid to claim. It is nice to have people affirm gifts we already recognize; such affirmation is flattering – but it is not news … Something transformative happens when someone helps us see potential in ourselves we cannot yet see …

This can be as unnerving as having sins we love pointed out to us. Who wants to lean into gifts we are afraid to claim? After all, isn’t there a reason we are afraid to claim them? Change is hard, but when others illumine hidden potential in our lives, and offer ongoing support as we lean into that potential, we discover hope, and are empowered to embody it.

These friends also help us dream dreams we otherwise would not dream. Sin and brokenness cause our lives and our imaginations to constrict. We don’t aim for much because we are haunted by the past or stuck in the comfortable mediocrity of the present.

Holy friends serve as vehicles of God’s reign to help us set our imaginations free for the future. Who knows what God might have in store for us – as individuals, for our communities, and for initiatives we may not yet have even conceived, much less embodied?

Holy friends help us envision and articulate the significance of Ephesians 3:20: “Now to [God] who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine …” How often do we believe that God’s power is at work within us, not only to accomplish all we can ask or imagine – which itself would be beyond what most of us dream of – but to accomplish “abundantly far more” than all we can ask or imagine?

Yet whether we are thinking of personal dreams – where youth in crisis discover that gangs and prison don’t have to define their lives, that they can become part of a flourishing community and have meaningful education, jobs and families – or institutional dreams – where networks of new institutions re-imagine life together for a city – holy friends help us dream dreams we otherwise would never dream.

In “Change or Die,” Alan Deutschman notes that people rarely change on the basis of the “three F’s”: facts, fear or force. He says it is the “three R’s” that enable people to change: relate, repeat and reframe.

Holy friends offer us ways to reframe our lives through challenging sins, affirming gifts and dreaming dreams. They help us repeat new activities as we lean into a new way of living our daily life, because it takes time to unlearn sin, to learn to claim gifts and to cultivate big dreams. And they offer paradigmatic new forms of relating that enable us to discover the hope to which we have been called.”

May each of us find a Holy Friend. May each of us be a Holy Friend.

Grace, Alan



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